Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hunting in Germany

Let me begin with the fact that I know almost nothing about hunting. So almost all of the information below comes from a few friends of ours who are hunters and hunt here in Germany. As you might expect, there's a lot of rules and regulation to hunting here and because of that it's a very interesting subject even for a non-hunter like me.

If you’ve ever driven in Germany, whether on the autobahn or country roads, you’ve seen these wooden, stilted structures out in the farmer’s fields. They look like some kind of hunting blind and that’s exactly what they are. They're called a Hochsitz, high seat. The story behind them and the regulations that govern their use is quite interesting.

German Hochsitz (High Seat) hunting blind.
All land outside the cities, towns and villages in Germany is controlled by the local Waldmeister, Forest Master, which most Americans refer to simply as the Forest Meister, a German, federal employee. A farmer or land holder may own a property but the Forest Meister controls the hunting and wildlife conservation rights to that property. The Forest Meister leases those hunting rights to a Jagdpächter (game tenant), also called a Revier (pronounced, ra-fēr) Owner. So if a farmer wishes to hunt on his own property, he must obtain the hunting lease to his own land and become the Revier Owner of his land. Along with the rights to hunt a property, a Revier Owner is expected to control the population of deer, wild boar etc. by taking a minimum number of animals per year. The Forest Meister establishes those numbers and monitors each Revier Owner’s progress.

Should a herd of wild boar enter a farmer’s property and tear up one of his crops he makes a claim with the Forest Meister for compensation. After evaluation of his claim, if warranted, the farmer will be reimbursed by the German government. Because of this process, it’s important to the Forest Meister that his Revier Owners adhere to their contract and control the population of the various wildlife that inhabit the German countryside.

That’s where these hunting blinds come into play.  As mentioned, they're called Hochsitz, High Seat.  The Revier Owner constructs these hunting blinds. Some are quite sturdy and provide good protection from rain and wind, others are just a ladder with a seating ledge at the top. Apparently the Revier Owner can place the blind pretty much wherever they choose because you’ll often see them in the middle of a field which requires the farmer to plow, plant and harvest around the structure. These hunting blinds are used for all types of game, deer, wild pigs, fox and birds.

Jeff standing on the ladder to a Hochsitz (High Seat), a German hunting blind.
"Hunting structure. Entry forbidden under punishment. Game tenant."
Speaking of Americans hunting here in Germany, service members here have to take numerous classes and prove their knowledge of German hunting rules and their shooting proficiency before they’re allowed to hunt here. Once all that’s done, which can take about six months, they have to find a Revier Owner who will allow them to hunt on their leased land. Even after that they must prove their skills over a period of time. Until that probationary period is complete they are not allowed to keep any game they shoot, all of it being turned over to a local government office who will distribute whatever meat might be available. All animals shot in Germany, whether kept by the hunter or not, must have certain organs turned over to a government office who will test them to ensure they are absent of any toxins or radiation poisoning.

Another interesting thing about a Jagdpächter or Revier Owner is there are two types of leases; low game and high game. Low game is for small deer, wild pigs and smaller. High game is catagorized as red tail deer and elk. Some Revier Owner's may lease a particular piece of land because they want to nurture a herd of large deer so that at some point in the future he may have a spectacular trophy buck. In that case, he may want to lease the hunting rights of that property for ten years which can cost as much as 10,000 Euros.

A rather crude Hochsitz.

Same Hochsitz up close.

Bringing in your own guns to hunt in Germany is complicated. Guns have to pass an inspection and, should it fail, the gun is confiscated never to be returned. For that reason, it's best to buy a pre-approved gun here in Germany and, of course, they're not cheap.

Wild boar in Germany are quite a nuisance. They can travel 20-30 kilometers a night tearing down fences and uprooting crops. Over a half million of them a taken by hunters each year in Germany.

Once a hunter is allowed to keep the meat or a trophy of an animal that he's shot it's not a simple matter of just cleaning it and taking it home. He has to register the kill and then pay a fee for whatever he keeps. Of course, the more the trophy is desired and the better quality of the meat and the amount will dictate the cost. For a single animal that can run into several hundreds or thousands of Euros.

Well, that's about all I know about hunting in Germany and maybe a lot more than you wanted to know. But I found all this quite interesting and a great illustration of how some things are done quite differently here in Germany.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

German Station Wagons

In the US the station wagon is pretty much a thing of the past. With the introduction of mini-vans and SUV’s there’s very little demand for the station wagon. But, here in Germany, and across Europe, the station wagon is still very popular. I think all major automobile manufactures make a station wagon that’s sold here in Europe; Mercedes, BMW, VW, Audi, Saab, Volvo, Peugeot, Renault, Citron. Even Asian car makers build a station wagon that they sell here in Europe but not in the US; Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai. Two of the most popular station wagons in Europe are sold buy American owned manufacturers Ford and Opel (owned by General Motors) even though they sell no such vehicle in the States.


European station wagons are not like the behemoth land cruisers that once roamed the highways of America. Like most cars in Germany, these station wagons get up and go. It’s very common to be cruising along the autobahn at a 100 mph and have a station wagon of some sort blow right by you.   On top of that, a high percentage of these station wagons are diesel; room, speed and economy.






Yes, there's a whole different mindset about a lot of things here in Germany and Europe and the station wagon is one of them.  It's here to stay.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Knocked off another "B" here in Europe last weekend; Brussels. It's just a three hour drive from our home so an easy trip. We've been to Brussels before but always quick trips and didn't get to see too much of the city. So here's some of the stuff we saw this time.

Crossing the border from Germany into Belgium. Interestingly, although there's no longer a checkpoint at these European Union member borders, the buildings are still there which would indicate that should there be a need, their operation could be quickly reinstated.

After the drive, snaking through Brussels traffic and checking into the hotel it's time for some Belgium libation. In Brussels, and most of the country, that means beer. Conveniently, just around the corner from our hotel was A la Mort Subite (Sudden Death). Used to be that the lunch hour patrons played cards in the bar's old location. When it was time to hurry back to work they would play one last round of their game and call it Mort Subite, sudden death. When the new establishment was finished and operations were moved here the name stuck.

Inside the bar is a magnificent example of what they call Art Nouveau. It really is a pleasant place with lots of old charm.

In addition to providing a variety of Belgium beers Mort Subite also brews their own brand of lambic beers, one type being Gueuze. More on Gueuze later. This man on his horse is their logo.

We wanted to sample a lot of the very different kinds of Belgium beers and we started with probably the country's most famous Trappist beer, Chimay and a Maes pils.

Now this was an interesting translation error on the Mort Subite menu; TITBITS. You'll also notice Kip Kap on the menu, pig cheeks.

For a second round we orderd a Mort Subite lambic and a Grimbergen Triple. Lambic beers aren't unique to Belgium but more are made here than anywhere else in the world. Lambic beers use a process called spontaneous fermentation by introducing only natural airborne yeast to the brewing of these types of beer. You can see we ordered some titbits but all we got was some salami.

Across the street from Mort Subite is the Galeries Royales St. Hubert, a beautiful glass covered shopping mall. It was built in 1846 and at that time it was the largest covered mall in the world. Very nice stores.

Very near St. Hubert and Mort Subite are a number of meandering lanes known as Ilot Sacré. It's very much like the Latin Quarter in Paris, restaurant upon restaurant, mostly seafood.

A very artistic display of seafood in front of one of the restaurants in Ilot Sacré. At the top you can see a replica of the Mannekin Pis; gotta get him in there.

Now, really, if you don't have a beer temple in your town your city just doesn't rate.

We had to knock off a visit to the Mannekin Pis right away so here we are. This has got to be the strangest symbol of a major city anywhere in the world; a little, naked peeing boy.

Me and the Mannekin Pis.

Close up of the Mannekin Pis. He's just two feet tall.

We walked by him the following day and on this occasion he had on a little uniform of some sort. There's actually a museum on the Grand Place which houses over 800 of his previous costumes. See, you gotta make the costume so that he can still pee.

OK, back to more serious business. Right across the street from the Mannekin Pis is Poechenellekelder, Poech for short. A very interesting place with all sorts of things hanging on the walls and ceilings, especially marionettes.

At Poech we tried a Kriek beer, cherry, and another Trappist beer, Westmalle. There are 174 Trappist monasteries around the world but only seven produce Trappist beer, six in Belgium and one in Holland. The Kriek was pretty good.

Kitty corner from the Mannekin Pis is the Mannekin Pis bar.

The Mannekin Pis bar was very interesting. You can see the Mannekin Pis replicas around the front. Although it's not functioning, each one of these replicas originally peed into a trough at the foot of the bar which you can see here too. Kind of a cool idea but I'm sure folks got tired of the pee splattering on their shoes.

One last Mannekin Pis and a big one. Outside a Belgium waffle place.

On the way to another destination, we walked back through the Grand Place, Brussels' main square in the city center. It's a very impressive place!

Some of the bars in Brussels are located down very narrow walkways. A La Becasse is one of them. Not exactly the most appealing presentation from the street, a flashing neon sign.

This way to A La Becasse.

Even the walkway is rather cheesy. Porcelain tiled walls.

But once inside, A La Becasse (In the Snipe) was very nice and cozy. The place has been owned by the Steppe family since 1877. There's our waiter with his rather strange outfit.

Here's his outfit from the back. Couldn't quite figure out why. 

We ordered a Kwak and Maredsous. Many Belgiums beers are quite high in alcohol content, Kwak is 8.4%. Maredsous is an abbey beer, brewed under license of the Maredsous Abbey, however, it is not a Trappist beer, but still very tasty.

Kwak is served in this round bottomed glass, placed in a wooden holder. Here's Jeff demonstrating how to drink a Kwak.

For a second round at A La Becasse, we had a Timmerman Sweet Lambic, served in this small pitcher that they call a jar. We also had another Maes pils to kind of cleanse our palate of some of these strange Belgium beers.

Last place for the night was Delirium Tremens (delirium tremors, you know, like DT's) complete pink elephants. Delirium Tremens is actually eight establishments in a little dead end alley in Ilot Sacré, what they call Delirium Village; Delirium Cafe, Delirium Monasterium, Delirium Taphouse, Delirium Hoppy Loft, Little Delirium Cafe, The Floris Bar, The Floris Garden and Floris Tequila. With all these places Delirium Tremens offers 300 whiskies, 400 absinths, 800 rums, 500 tequilas and Mezcals, 400 vodkas, 2400 beers with 100 Abbey and Trappist beers.

So here's our first round at Delirium, our last square-filling beers of our Brussels trip.  The beer Delirium Tremens which they claim was "Elected the best beer in the world" and a Gueuze. The Delirium Tremens beer was fine but it certainly would not have gotten our vote for best world beer. Now, Gueuze (pronounced, gooz) is a whole other animal. Jeff says they got the name for this beer from the sound that people make after tasting it. It's hard to describe other than a distinct sour taste. Like I mentioned, last square filled.

The sampling of the Gueuze. Listen to me crack the whip at the end of this video.

Next day we started with a walk about of the city center. Here's what's described as Brusselization, a rather hodge podge mixture of old and new architectural styles. This is the Belgium Parliament building.

Part of Brussels medieval city wall.

Kapellekerk, a 13th century Catholic church in Brussels. It was damaged during the French bombardment of the city in 1695.  French . . . always causing problems.

Kapellekerk nave.

Amazing carved wood pulpit in Kapellekerk.

The Apse of Kapellekerk.

The Palace of Justice at the western end of Regentschapsstraat. There's some sort of expo in Brussels this year so I assume that's what the big 2012 is for.

Didn't we see this same piece of "art" a couple weeks ago in Paris? Yes, we did.

The Royal Palace in Brussels.

Brussels is proud of the country's comic/cartoon history. In fact, there's a comic museum in the city. Also, at various places around Brussels you'll find large murals of many of the famous Belgium cartoon characters. This one is about Tintin.

There is a little female version of the Mannekin Pis. It's called Jeanneke Pis, a rather happy little girl squatting to pee. It was first put on display in 1987 to raise money for cancer research.

OK, all that sightseeing made us hungry and we had just one gastronomy square to fill, Moules-frites, mussels and fries. Very good!!

Of course, after mussels and fries you've got to relax in a nice Brussels establishment. This one, Au Bon Vieux Temps (The Good Old Days), is another one that's down a small walkway. Of course, this one is a little more pleasing.

The is the little alley way leading to Au Bon Vieux Temps.

Very dark wood interior in Au Bon Vieux Temps makes for a quite cozy feeling.

Just one round here at Au Bon Vieux Temps, a Corsendonk and a Duvel. Corsendonk refers to the Priory of Corsendonk but it is not an abbey ale but still quite good. Duvel is a very popular beer in Belgium and tastes great.

Oh, wait, one other gastronomy requirement before we're done in Brussels, a Belgium waffle. We just had a simple chocolate syrup and whipped cream waffle. It was scrumptiously, light and delicious.

We had read that Dandoy serves the best Belgium waffle in Brussels and they certainly get our vote.

Here's some street signs in Brussels. Everything is in French and Dutch. Those are the official languages of the country and that causes considerable problems. Amazingly, in Belgium, there is the country's Parliament but because of the language issue there's also a French Community Commission and a Flemish (Dutch) Community Commission, both with some legislative capabilities. The system is so stressed because of these language and other issues that the country has had no formal government for almost two years.  Many feel there is a real possibilty of the country splitting in two.

We're on our way home but we had to stop by the Atomium. It's an odd structure that was built for the Brussels World's Fair in 1958. There's a escalator that will take folks to the top sphere.

Had a nice leisurely drive home on Sunday; light traffic. Stopped at Spangdahlem for gas and a snack. Another great weekend and wonderful visit to Brussels.